Dental management companies backed by private equity firms could face restrictions

June 7, 2012
Issue 6

North Carolina is at the front line in a national struggle over dental management companies.

North Carolina is at the front line in a national struggle over dental management companies.

A North Carolina bill, that is currently stalled in a House committee, would put in place new rules on such companies. Private equity firms have bought or put money into at least 25 dental management companies in the past decade, reported the Washington Post.

The North Carolina Dental Society is backing a bill to regulate dental service organizations more closely because it says some of these groups are crossing the line and essentially controlling dental practices.

The fight in North Carolina comes as at least five states are conducting audits or reviews of how dental-management companies do business.

Lisa Ward, Director of Government Affairs for the North Carolina Dental Society, said they're looking at North Carolina as their test case.

"They'll do anything they can to win here," said Lisa Ward in an MSN.com article.

While some dentists argue that the dental management companies are taking an administrative burden off the backs of dentists and allowing them to concentrate on more patients, supporters of the bill say it's an attempt by out-of-state, investor-owned corporations to come in and exert control in dental practices and get in between the doctor-patient relationship.

According to Dr. Alec Parker, the North Carolina Dental Society's Executive Director, some organizations are imposing quotas and encouraging dentists to persuade patients that they need certain treatments.

The North Carolina bill would mandate a regulatory review of agreements between dental management companies and dentists to make sure corporations aren't driving clinical decision- making. Laws in North Carolina and at least 40 other states bar corporate dentistry because of concerns that the profit motive raises the risk of unnecessary or shoddy care.